This Day in History: 1989-04-19

A white woman is brutally raped and beaten in New York City’s Central Park. Police quickly arrest and over 12+ excruciating hours torturous badgering extract false confessions from and then charge five innocent teenage boys ranging 14-16 years of age with the brutal crime. The subsequent press spectacle and trial popularize the wholly fictional phenomenon of “wilding”, a false narrative of irredeemably feral African American super-predator youth prowling urban hell-scapes reaping destruction and misery in their wake. Law enforcement and use of the death penalty would be modified for the worse nationwide in response to this fiction. Their arrest triggered one of Donald Trump’s first forays into racism on the national stage when he took out full page ads in multiple national newspapers demanding reinstatement of the death penalty. Despite lack of any evidence beyond the duress-induced and subsequently recanted false confessions, the “Central Park Five” are convicted and sentenced to maximum security confinement. Thirteen years later DNA testing and another man’s voluntary confession prove the innocence of the “Central Park Five”, and their convictions are vacated. Learn more.